The 20 Softest Players in World Football

Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIAugust 2, 2012

The 20 Softest Players in World Football

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    In America, footballers have a reputation for being pansies, divers, cheats and uninterested in good old-fashioned contact.

    Generally, this is untrue. But there are some high-profile players who unfortunately epitomize this stereotype and go through games whining, shouting at referees and crumbling to the ground at the slightest contact.

    There are others who genuinely get injured at the slightest touch and yet more who must continually look for a cushier environment in which to play.

    These most undesirable men are soft footballers, and here are 20 of the softest in the world.

Marcelo

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    Despite the tremendous ability that Marcelo has, he tarnishes his reputation by going down easily and seeking the easy way out of challenges.

    When even the slightest bit of contact occurs, as we can see here, Marcelo shies away from it and, in so doing, tries to frame his opponent and feign injury.

Adel Taarabt

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    Watch any Queens Park Rangers match, and you will see the moody Adel Taarabt throwing himself all over the football pitch as he runs into defenders and loses the ball.

    In addition to constantly flopping, he has a habit of screaming at the referees that don't believe his histrionic routine, which only serves to disgrace him more.

    And, whenever the team does not perform to his liking, Taarabt gets unsettled at QPR and is seemingly always on the prowl for another club that will take him.

Theo Walcott

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    How do I know that Theo Walcott is a diver? He's admitted it himself.

    At least he had the guts to apologize for it, but anyone who watches Arsenal regularly knows that Walcott goes down at the slightest touch, and, worse, is a constant complainer.

    Even after his own mistakes, which include running the ball out of play under absolutely no pressure, he will scream at his teammates for some perceived fault on their part; never acknowledging that it was he who erred.

    Now, after a long period of inconsistency, Walcott is biding his time in contract talks with Arsenal with one year left on his current deal, as if he has earned the right to.

Eden Hazard

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    It isn't Eden Hazard's diving that gets him a spot on this list, as he was one of the most honest players in Ligue 1 last season.

    Rather, it's Hazard's narcissism, which has been on full display during the past couple seasons, as he flirted with a variety of clubs and actively marketed himself while still playing for Lille.

    He clearly has a ton of ability and could turn into one of the best players in Europe with Chelsea, but he is very big for his boots and acts like Cristiano Ronaldo already.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic's footballing career has just been one protracted saga.

    He has generated more money in transfer fees than any other player in history, and moves club on an almost yearly basis because he can never stay settled at any one.

    Whether it was simply not getting along with the manager (Barcelona), not willing to put in the work for a year to get back to the big time (Juventus) or just asking for a ridiculous amount of money (AC Milan), Ibrahimovic always seems to find a way out.

    And, despite the fact that he is a large, imposing man, he will buckle and whine at the slightest touch on the pitch.

Ashley Young

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    In just the last year, Ashley Young has been involved in numerous diving incidents, and, while he has tried to tone back the cheating somewhat, he is still one of the softest players in England.

    The most egregious incident occurred in a match against Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford. With Shaun Derry on his shoulder in the penalty box, Young tumbled to the ground without a touch and earned Derry a straight red card.

    After getting embroiled in a couple other incidents, Young continues to try to trick and con referees, rather than play the game.

Wayne Bridge

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    Wayne Bridge is the definition of soft. Here is a man who so enjoyed making bags of money at Manchester City that he remained at the club to waste away and not play.

    Even Roberto Mancini couldn't fathom why the guy was still around, and wondered aloud what would make a player do such a thing.

    When he actually gets on the pitch, Bridge is very much a technical player who relies purely on his left foot and shies away from really tough challenges.

    After a long-awaited loan spell at Sunderland, he is now spending this season in the Championship with Brighton and Hove Albion, again on loan from City.

Gareth Bale

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    If you want an indication of how soft Gareth Bale is compared to his peers in the Premier League, consider this: No one was booked more for simulation than Bale last season.

    That means that faking, rather than taking contact is a large part of his game, and he is cutting corners even when the referee isn't looking or doesn't reach into his pocket.

    It's unfortunate that Bale feels the need to do this, as he is a tall, strong man who does not need to pull away from all contact to play well. However, a diver is what he has become.

Franck Ribery

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    Despite his rather intimidating face and his tough veneer, Franck Ribery is easily one of the most delicate football players that regularly steps onto a pitch.

    In the video, you will see that he doesn't merely make the most out of trivial contact, but actually makes up the challenges as he goes along, sometimes in a hilariously delayed fashion.

    While Ribery is a good player, if a defender knows how to play him and genuinely challenges him physically, the Frenchman will crumble.

Milos Krasic

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    Throughout his career, Milos Krasic has earned a reputation as one of the most frequent divers in world football, and it is not difficult to see why.

    This is merely one example of his cheating in action. At almost every opportunity, Krasic will take the easy way out, rather than absorb a challenge like a man and play the game fairly.

    Perhaps this is why Juventus are looking to offload him. He is a good winger when he remains upright, but that does not happen often enough.

Samir Nasri

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    Samir Nasri is both a coward and a man who will do anything to get better financial terms, regardless of how he is actually playing.

    After a few good months with Arsenal, Nasri hung the Gunners out to dry during the summer and eventually forced through his preferred move to Manchester City.

    At City, Nasri has continued his unscrupulous tumbling and writhing while talking up his grand aspirations with the club and figuratively falling on his face whenever he plays.

    It figures that he backed away from a confrontation with Arsenal's Emmanuel Frimpong last season, despite stirring up trouble in every dressing room he's ever been in.

Robin van Persie

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    Robin van Persie is a fierce competitor and, generally, doesn't dive too much. What makes him remarkably soft is his propensity for injury, which has kept him out of the team almost every season.

    Last year was the first in which the Dutchman actually remained healthy for an entire campaign. Before, he would spend about half of each campaign in the training room with bandages around his fragile ankle or knee.

    While not quite up to Abou Diaby's level, van Persie has been one of the examples of Arsenal's annual injury woes.

Fernando Torres

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    Take one look at Fernando Torres, with his golden locks and boyishly freckled face, and you can tell that he is as soft as a pillow.

    During his entire career, the big striker has been prone to occasional fits of diving, and occasionally the stunts rise to an insane level.

    In addition to this unprovoked flop, there have been many more instances of Torres not dealing with contact well in the penalty box and fading when marked by a powerful center back such as Vincent Kompany.

Nani

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    Nani is probably one of the lightest and most fragile players in England. That is, he seems to go down at the slightest touch, and every bit of contact is like a three-second broken leg.

    Here, we can see that, after a first challenge from Jamie Carragher, Nani rolls around a bit, gets up to argue, and when pushed back, falls to the turf and begins to cry. I don't know whether Carra hurt his feelings or whether it's the excruciating pain.

    Regardless, similar antics are routine for the Portuguese winger, whose reputation for softness is well-known.

Dani Alves

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    The diving and playacting of Barcelona's Dani Alves has been irritating everyone outside of Catalonia for years, and one wonders why referees do not take more action to prevent and punish it.

    There was the infamous incident in which he got Pepe a red card for a phantom challenge, and another in which he got Robin van Persie sent off after Alves himself grabbed the Dutchman's throat.

    Watch Alves whenever he has the ball and runs into traffic: Even if a defender gets the ball, he will inevitably fall into the fetal position and writhe around endlessly.

Angel di Maria

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    If you have an entire portfolio of your best flops on YouTube, you know you're a soft player.

    While very skillful, Angel di Maria has established a reputation as one of the easiest players in the world to take down because of his willingness to faceplant.

    He will even stick himself onto the defender to lose his balance, go down and hopefully earn a free-kick. 

    Though he has been booked more than once for his actions, di Maria continues to toy with referees.

Arjen Robben

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    They don't call him "glass bones" for no reason.

    Not only is Arjen Robben one of the most injury-prone players in the world with new ailments testing his body every season, but he is one of the most blatant divers I have ever seen.

    I will say that he puts a lot of effort into his craft, but his flopping technique isn't even that good. Frequently, he will hit the ground well after any contact could possibly have been made, resulting in a foul against him.

    I suppose it's just his way of dealing with the constant injury concerns.

Neymar

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    It was tough to pick just one of Neymar's infamous dives to show you, so I have embedded a compilation of several in one international match.

    But the Brazilian's hilarious softness is on display in every match he plays for club and country. There are always several instances, whether the referee sees them as fouls or not, of Neymar faking contact and excruciating injury, only to recover a short time later.

    It's a shame that he tarnishes all of his skill and boundless ability with cheating, but, without a bulky frame and with a very technical playing style, Neymar probably feels that he has but one way to deal with tough challenges.

Sergio Busquets

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    It is shocking that a large man who plays one of the most physical positions on the pitch would be such a shameless diver and tender little flower.

    Yet, for some reason, Sergio Busquets is a threat to go down nearly every time he touches the ball for whichever team he plays for.

    Instead of the leg, as with many other players, it is usually Busquets' face and head that bear the brunt of the aggression against him, although he should probably rethink this tired strategy.

    Sometimes it works with certain referees and sometimes it doesn't, but there's no denying that Busquets is one of the softest men around.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Ladies and gentlemen, meet Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who embodies everything that so many hate about the modern footballer.

    Nearly every time he loses the ball, nearly every time a defender so much as touches him, nearly every tricky situation he finds himself in is responded to with a comedic flop and various gesticulations towards the referee.

    Take one look at a man as tall, strong and powerful as Ronaldo, and it is obvious that he doesn't need to do these things and that, if he wanted to, he could play just as well with an honest approach.

    Not C-Ron, though. His remarkable susceptibility to the basic challenge and the normal rigors of a football match make him the single softest player in world football.